Seven years after 10 Things I Hate About You debuted as the best-ever adaptation of Taming of the Shrew, She’s the Man brought us a lovely adaptation of Twelfth Night. It’s not as witty or distinctive as 10 Things, but it’s great on its own merits.
Twelfth Night has always been one of my favorites thanks to silly gender-bending hijinks, but I actually didn’t watch She’s the Man until 2023. I was the right age and demographic in 2006–plus I love(d) Shakespeare adaptations–but in this version, Viola is a soccer player, and I was actively allergic to anything remotely resembling sports. I’m not kidding you, I wore dog collars and forked my tongue at the football players. (I’m so sorry, hometown.)
If I had known very little of this movie involves soccer treated like sports, I would have watched and loved it. In retrospect, I really wish this had been my cross-dressing school movie rewatch, rather than the far crueler Sorority Boys.
The story is what you expect. Viola disguises herself as her brother to prove herself among male soccer players, then falls in love with her male roommate, played by Channing Tatum. Viola becomes a go-between for the guy she likes and the girl he likes, but the girl he likes actually likes Viola, and this is how we have fun you guys. This is gay and we love this.
I’m on the team that says Shakespeare knew what he was doing (wiki). I wouldn’t leap to calling Shakespeare bisexual; modern labels of sexuality don’t apply outside modernity, period. Throughout much of history, passionate sexual/romantic friendships among all genders were common, especially among the liberation of the artistic classes.
Point being, Shakespeare got mischievous, sexy jollies out of the cross-dressing stuff, and the material is one long cheeky wink-wink. Would you ever wonder why I love the Twelfth Night? Everyone needs to know being gay is hilarious.
ANYWAY, since this adaptation is from an era with such a prevailing culture of homophobia and transphobia, it’s miraculous that She’s the Man only spends a *little* time saying “no homo.” The behavior from a guy like Channing Tatum in She’s the Man gives me all kinds of red flags, but he kinda has no choice. His character has to set the 2006-major-media-expectations of boundaries, which means acting like it’s gross that he’s having intimate moments with this hot little twink.
Yeah, Amanda Bines, you killed it as a hot little twink. I understand Bines struggled with gender dysphoria creating this movie and I wanna express full sympathy. That said, in the 2000s, I was murdering people to try to date girls who looked Amanda Bines as a boy. When I say “t-boy energy,” with all the energy and confidence, that’s what I’m talking about.
Half the time, I could almost convince myself I was actually watching a movie about a t-boy just trying to pass in college with his afab body, lying about the orifice tampons pair with, hiding his binder, and putting up with intolerant relatives. I honestly want movies with this exact level of stakes and tone with cute trans kids (but without the slimy aura of “no homo”). You wouldn’t have to change that much for Tatum’s character to realize he’s in love with Bines regardless of gender presentation and be relaxed about it. A lot of us find guys who love the rainbow of gender identity within a single person. 🙂
Bines is a really fun comedian to watch, too. She has a full-body goofiness that looks like a cartoon, and her energy is exactly what the movie needs. Sometimes I get anxious watching fake-identity movies! She’s the Man keeps things funny instead of stressful.
Of course I think the movie would be better with a Viola/Olivia endgame, but I waited until the end of the review to say that, so I deserve a pat on the back.